The Hampshire Young Interpreter Scheme at Harestock Primary School was launched to provide peer support to pupils who are learning English as an Additional Language. Used correctly it can be a powerful tool to develop community cohesion and empathy amongst English speakers towards some of the challenges and difficulties that pupils new to English face. Harestock recognised the huge potential that exists within the school community for pupils of all ages to use their language skills and knowledge to support new learners of English so that they feel safe, settled, valued and part of the school community as soon as possible. This can be very reassuring from a parent’s point of view when their child is adapting to substantial changes.
Thirteen monolingual and bilingual pupils representing the diversity of languages spoken at Harestock were nominated by their teachers to participate in a challenging five week training program.
The pupils quickly recognised the importance of creating an inclusive environment for new arrivals. Along with their monolingual English only interpreters they have learnt different strategies to clarify, explain and interpret the range of school activities, systems and procedures through the medium of child friendly English. They designed a set of standards, produced a leaflet and came up with some innovative ideas that will support pupils, staff and families alike.
Our interpreters are now trained to show families who share the same home language around the school. They are available to buddy up with new arrivals during their first few weeks, familiarise them with school routines and be on hand to support staff when experiencing difficulties communicating with pupils and their families. They are there to help support new arrivals in communicating what they have written or what they want to say and importantly to provide a warm welcome to parents at parent’s evening or other events.
The Young Interpreters were presented with a badge, an interpreter’s pack and a certificate by a representative from Hampshire Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service. They will continue to meet regularly to discuss any issues and to implement any new initiatives to the benefit of new pupils and their families into the Harestock School and community.
Is it important? Will it make a difference? Apart for the obvious benefits to new arrivals this is how the scheme impacted on the feelings of a pupil on the fringe of the Young Interpreters scheme.
A pupil at the school asked if it would be possible to become a Young Interpreter as she spoke Hungarian fluently. She was bilingual but had not previously had the confidence to tell anyone. She informed us that Harestock was the only school she had felt able to speak or disclose, let alone share the benefit of her other language.
Harestock is currently one of two primary schools in Winchester that have embraced, and are realising, the benefits of ‘Young Interpreters.